maybe its the generation im from or growing up in suburban SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the early 1990s without MTV and only access to the radio and 106.7FM KROQ on constantly, but so much of what i understood to be modern music from an early age was produced by BUTCH VIG.
i remember being at a SHAKEY'S PIZZA in ORANGE COUNTY after what had to be a youth soccer game during my early elementary school years (maybe 1892?) and hearing "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" for the first time as someone played it from the jukebox. had no clue who NIRVANA was or anything about INDIE ROCK, PUNK ROCK or the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene at the time. i just knew that whatever that was, it sounded how i felt and i connected with it on first listen. i can only think of a rare few other times thats happened with bands like GLASSJAW and THE GET UP KIDS among others. i dont believe i even had a copy of NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) or the STEVE ALBINI-produced follow-up IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) until christmas of 1993. i was just too young.
and NIRVANA is just the beginning. as i grew older and discovered more bands it was always a pleasure to learn this new discovery (to me) inevitably led back to BUTCH VIG, as was the case with L7, SONIC YOUTH, HELMET, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and much later GARBAGE. whats compelling to me about his output is how eclectic his production catalogue has been, as AFI sound nothing like AGAINST ME! and sonically and aesthetically sit on a different planet from KILLDOZER, yet they all bear his fingerprint. the man does not pigeonhole himself, even within the greater ROCK N ROLL milieu. the versatility likely comes from his production chops and work ethic that kept the doors of his MADISON, WISCONSIN-based SMART STUDIOS open to all newcomers, but i also feel it comes from the lack of pretense that comes with his midwestern upbringing. with culture caught up with him he didnt seem to become fazed by the attention, instead maintaining a distance while taking advantage of the ability to be selective with upcoming exciting new projects. even his decision to initiate GARBAGE does not feel like an inevitability, but a genuine artistic choice to push the limits of technology and marry it with the songwriting prowess and sardonic yet earnest ethos of ALTERNATIVE ROCK. when i first heard "STUPID GIRL" on MTV at a relatives house, i had no idea BUTCH VIG was involved. which is likely the highest compliment i can offer.
the dude is a chameleon and he is always someone whose latest project i look forward to consuming, just to see what latest madness he's help midwife into the world.
below is a pandemic episode of DEER GOD RADIO from june of 2020 dedicated to the production work of BUTCH VIG. enjoy!
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
during the pandemic many a musician, much like the res of us, were stuck at home with their RECORDING and TOURING cycles effectively semi-permanently on hold. during that period a number of them initiated PODCASTS and YOUTUBE channels in order to staving off cabin fever, as well as (one would assume) supplement their income during a dry period of seemingly indefinite length as the world came to terms with COVID.
of all these endeavors, JIMMY EAT WORLD's frontman and main SONGWRITER JIM ADKINS created the PODCAST and associated VIDEO SERIES PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES (available on his band's YOUTUBE channel) over twenty episodes in 2020 as a means of discussing with other musicians the CREATIVE PROCESS and more specifically his love of SONGWRITING. and it really is very much a deep dive into the MECHANICS, RITUALS, THEORY, COLLABORATIONS, PRODUCTION, SELF-DOUBT, TECHNIQUE, HABITS, INSPIRATION, FRUSTRATION, TECHNOLOGY, HARD-WORK and SPONTANEITY that goes into writing a SONG. notable past guests include KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE), MARK HOPPUS (BLINK-182), MATT PRYOR (THE GET UP KIDS), BETHANY CONSENTINO (BEST COAST), WILLIAM RYAN KEY (YELLOWCARD), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE), TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA), GERARD WAY (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) and FRANK TURNER.
i think what really comes across in these discussions is the level of INTENTION and CRAFTSMANSHIP involved in SONGWRITING. given its EPHEMERAL nature, the experience of listening to music make it seem an almost INVISIBLE ART and PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES very much establishes how such is definitely not the case. makes me wonder about what other aspects of modern entertainment is passively consumed with little to no notice for its creation. FOOD, WEB DESIGN, CINEMA, JOURNALISM, GRAPHIC DESIGN and PHOTOGRAPHY (along with aforementioned MUSIC) come immediately to mind. its all a bit of a reminder to be a more MINDFUL consumer of the CREATIVE EFFOTS of others. my biggest takeaway is the role of battling CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT as a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS. it feels reassuring that most of these accomplished SONGWRITERS who have all created MEMORABLE art over the past few decades first had to overcome their own SELF-CRITICISM and sense of SELF-WORTH to make something worthwhile. makes them feel more HUMAN.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
like a lot of people, i was pretty bummed when the INDEPENDENT NEW JERSEY record store VINTAGE VINYL closed abruptly seemingly without warning in the middle of the summer of 2021. i had been going there for years since the early 2000s when i effectively relocated to the area for college after randomly spending my senior year of high school in SACRAMENTO. in fact part of my yearly ritual during my years teaching abroad was a trip to VINTAGE VINYL during my brief stateside vacation. id even argue the experience made me feel connected to a sense of "home."
i remember learning about the FORDS, NEW JERSEY store through a plugged-in classmate and friend of my brother, who were both still in high school at the time. in the early 2000s there was an UNDERGROUND ROCK N ROLL scene that centered around RUTGERS UNIVERSITY in NEW BRUNSWICK that included bands of varying genres (POST-HARDCORE, POP PUNK, HARDCORE and METALCORE) from various relatively nearby northeast cities such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (MORRIS PLAINS), THURSDAY (NEW BRUNSWICK), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (NEWARK), MIDTOWN (NEW BRUNSWICK), STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (NEW BRUNSWICK) as well as more established acts like THE BOUNCING SOULS (BASKING RIDGE) and LIFETIME (NEW BRUNSWICK) among others. interestingly bands like THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (NEW BRUNSWICK) and THE SCREAMING FEMALES (NEW BRUNSWICK) also came from the embers of this scene years later.
VINTAGE VINYL was only a ten minute drive from the heavily congested streets of the NEW BRUNSWICK campus and proved to be quite the quiet respite during my years as an undergraduate there. i can only imagine what that store meant to musicians from the surrounding area. did i mention the place also put on in-store promotional shows for UNDERGROUND and established bands? i recently came across their YOUTUBE channel which has in-store live performances by the likes of everyone from BAD RELIGION, CAVE-IN, THE USED, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, JIMMY EAT WORLD, CIRCA SURVIVE, MXPX, THE GET UP KIDS, THURSDAY, NEW FOUND GLORY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (all embedded below) among many others. if you dig through their channel you will find in-store signings by the likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, KERRY KING (of SLAYER), DARRYL "DMC" MCDANIELS (of RUN-DMC) and ROB ZOMBIE. its all unedited single shot tripod footage with unmixed in-camera audio. in essence its mostly uncompelling, shitty footage, except for the fact that as a cultural artifact these videos are invaluable as markers of a local and national musical culture at a certain place and time.
whats sad is that the hurried manner in which the store closed, at the behest of the owner who wished to move on after 40+ years and had no interest in having it continue under new management, effectively meant that a community had no opportunity to celebrate it. there was no send-off or concert by the local musical community that no doubt had embraced this obscure INDEPENDENT establishment for many years. for me that is the unfortunate legacy of VINTAGE VINYL. it was a private, locally-owned business that was embraced by a culture and in the end the owner did not embrace them back.
in the wake of VINTAGE VINYL there are several local and independently owned and operated record stores (some new, some long established) in NEW JERSEY that i frequent which have largely replaced it, including STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL (POMPTON LAKES), REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR (MILLTOWN), LOFIDELIC RECORDS (BELMAR), VINYL ADDICTION RECORDS (NORTH ARLINGTON), FACTORY RECORDS SHOP (DOVER), SOUND EXCHANGE (WAYNE), GROOVY GRAVEYARD (ASBURY PARK), JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE (RED BANK), THE RECORD COLLECTOR (BORDENTOWN) and yes, even the dreaded PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE (PRINCETON). id also include the NEW YORK record stores GENERATION RECORDS (GREENWICH VILLAGE), ACADEMY RECORD ANNEX (GREENPOINT) and LOONEY TUNES (WEST BABYLON) as well as the PHILADELPHIA store REPO RECORDS (SOUTH STREET) in the mix as well. unfortunately none of these stores have live in-store performances at the same level of impact as VINTAGE VINYL.
a little over a year later it still feels like a loss.
join us TONIGHT at 6PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist celebrating the notoriously perfectionist ENGLISH record producer GIL NORTON!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
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check out HERE a special episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist dedicated to the music production career of BUTCH VIG, from his career recording DIY releases from obscure 80s midwestern HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK bands at his own SMART STUDIOS to his commercial breakthrough with 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK icons NIRVANA, SMASHING PUMPKINS and GARBAGE and beyond.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
the often maligned but irresistible sub-genre of POP PUNK is a sound that dates back to the very roots of PUNK ROCK with THE RAMONES and THE BUZZCOCKS back in the 1970s. check out HERE as we celebrate guilt-free the groups that have carried on the torch the last few decades mixing classic song structures and melody with the energy, excitement and aggression of classic PUNK ROCK.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.